Science Education Experts Recommend Strengthening Students' Critical Thinking Skills by Retaining "Strengths and Weaknesses" Language in Texas Science Standards
Three of six experts selected by the Texas State Board of Education to review a proposed update of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science have recommended that the TEKS retain controversial language calling on students to examine the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories in order to strengthen students' critical thinking skills.
"Some activist groups are pressuring the State Board to cut that language from the TEKS in order to artificially shield Darwin's theory from the normal process of scientific inquiry," said Casey Luskin, an education policy analyst at Discovery Institute. "However, as these three experts point out, examining the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories is a core part of the scientific process, and abandoning such critical analysis merely to satisfy ideological demands of Darwinists harms students by giving them a false view of scientific inquiry."
"Science education that does not encourage students to evaluate competing scientific arguments is not teaching students about the way science actually operates," emphasized expert reviewer Dr. Stephen Meyer in his written report submitted to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Meyer added that the need for students to study the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific explanations has been noted by the National Research Council, a sister organization to the National Academy of Sciences.
Meyer directs the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. A Cambridge-trained philosopher of science, he was formerly a geophysicist with ARCO in Dallas.
Meyer was joined in recommending the preservation of the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the TEKS by Baylor University chemistry professor Dr. Charles Garner and University of Wisconsin-Superior biology professor Ralph W. Seelke, whose laboratory research investigates the ability of natural selection to produce new functions in bacteria.
In separate written reviews, all three experts advised the TEA that good science education should encourage students to learn the scientific facts and engage in more critical thinking than they would under the currently proposed TEKS.
Key recommendations made by one or more of the reviewers include:
- the TEKS should not only retain the "strengths and weaknesses" language, but strengthen critical thinking skills by explicitly applying this approach to the study of specific scientific theories and hypotheses, including biological and chemical evolution.
- the TEKS should not include pejorative or inaccurate language in their definition of science, but they should encourage students to understand how scientists think skeptically and critically and engage in scientific debate when solving scientific problems.
- the TEKS should encourage students to learn about the impact of science on culture and society, providing both positive and negative examples of such impacts.